Dan Lawton : Journalist

USC Arrests Filmmaker John Ziegler for Protesting Katie Couric Award

Libertarian filmmaker John Ziegler, whose documentary Media Malpratice indicts the media for its partisanship during the presidential election, was arrested on Saturday while protesting at the Walter Conkrite Awards ceremony at USC.  Ziegler was protesting the award being given to Katie Couric for her interview with Sarah Palin.

uscAccording to Ziegler, he was initially going to demonstrate at the event, but then decided to cover it as a journalist.  USC officials had marked off a specific area behind a barricade for him to protest, and refused to let Ziegler in the event.  According to USC,  only press that had been approved by nominees was allowed.

In the full video, which is embedded below, Ziegler is being annoying and dramatic, but he is never confrontational with police, school officials or attendees.  In fact, he makes it abundantly clear that his intention is to cover the event as a journalist and to ask critical (and annoying) questions about whether or not Couric is worthy of  an award.

Ziegler points out, correctly, that there is a tremendous irony in a journalist at an award ceremony for journalistic excellence being banned from covering the event.  Though USC is a private university, it has a commitment to safeguarding dissent.  It’s clear from the footage that it wasn’t Ziegler’s actions, but his politics that got him removed.  In a lengthy blog post, Ziegler wrote

In effect, I was being punished, repressed, and physically harmed as a form of prior restraint because they anticipated that I might do something to disrupt the proceedings based on my prior writings and commentary on the event (in which I never claimed I would do anything more than exactly what I tried to; give away copies of my film as an educational exercise).

Though he’s a bit self righteous, he’s correct, and it’s shameful that USC’s journalism school had such a primitive response to the incident. Dean Ernest Wilson claimed in his statement that the Annenberg School of Communication has a “powerful and evident commitment to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and the rights of the press,” but what was truly evident is that USC isn’t interested in tolerating journalists who are a bit kooky, very critical and a threat to their mid-afternoon toast to Katie C.

Over at the Huff-Po, brainiac John Wellington Ennis wrote a blog post entitled, “Does the First Amendment Protect Someone From Being a Dumbass” in which he assailed Zielger’s character for not showing “respect and tact,” while peppering him with childish insult after insult.

Ziegler shot right back with a Huff Post blog entry of his own, contradicting Ennis’s claims one by one(or at least the one’s that didn’t already contradict each other.)

The bottom line is John Zielger is a guy with a pretty mediocre film about something that is indisputable:  The media did an abhorrent job providing coverage during the election.  He’s no genius and I disregard much of what he says, but he should be able to critically question the work of Katie Couric without ending up in handcuffs. The fact that he can’t exposes the fragility of unpopular speech in one of the places it should be valued most.



2 Responses to “USC Arrests Filmmaker John Ziegler for Protesting Katie Couric Award”

  1. [...] makes a man spit in the face of conventional knowledge, shake off the guarantee of sure defeat, and toss his hat into the presidential ring over and over [...]

  2. That D-Bag Needs a Bat To The Face says:

    Please note my emphasis here. This guy ziegler is SO apparently the biggest douchebag in the history of Earth.

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